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COVID-19 Vaccine rollout for the Disability Sector

Frequently Asked Questions

Date of publication: August 2022

NDS has made every effort to ensure that the information is correct at the time of publishing. Please submit enquiry/feedback if a link to resources on external websites is broken or a resource no longer available. NDS will continue to monitor changes and developments in the Vaccine roll-out and will update this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sheet.

Vaccine rollout

The Australian Government has launched the latest phase of the COVID-19 campaign to encourage Australians to get up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccine and receive their flu vaccine this winter.The new ‘Take on winter’ campaign reminds people we are more vulnerable to illnesses this year and it’s safe to have both COVID-19 and influenza vaccines at the same time.

Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Everyone living in Australia, who is five years and over, can receive a free COVID-19 vaccine. A primary course of the vaccine requires two doses.

Most people need two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to get strong protection, plus a booster dose to maintain immunity from the virus that causes COVID-19.  An additional booster dose, or ‘winter dose’, is recommended for people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who have already had their first booster dose.Disability services staff, volunteers, clients and their families and household members can go to any Commonwealth vaccine clinic, or state or territory vaccine clinic, or pharmacy, GP office or vaccination pop-up centre across Australia.If you are in one of these groups, identify yourself to your vaccine provider so they can prioritise your vaccine.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended all children aged five to 11 years be vaccinated with a paediatric dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The primary course of vaccine for children aged five to 11 is one third of the dose for people aged 12 years and over.

Please use the COVID-19 vaccine clinic finder and check your state or territory website for more information about accessing priority vaccinations, vaccination sites, booking preferences and features such as culturally-safe or disability clinics.

What vaccine will I receive?

There are four COVID-19 vaccines available, for the primary course of vaccines(two doses), which have been approved for use by meeting the strict standards for safety, quality, and efficacy of Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

  1. Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) vaccine
  2. Spikevax (Moderna) vaccine
  3. Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) vaccine
  4. Nuvaxovid (Novavax) vaccine

For the Primary Course (first dose and second dose)

  • Everyone five years and older has access to Pfizer
  • Everyone six years and older can also have Moderna
  • Everyone 18 years and older can also have, AstraZeneca* and Novavax

*People 60 years and over can have the AstraZeneca vaccine if this will not pose an increased risk of side effects in relation to any pre-existing medical conditions. People aged 18 to 59 can choose to have AstraZeneca after discussion with a health professional.

Research shows that the Pfizer vaccine is up to 91 per cent effective in children. Children will receive two doses of the vaccine, eight weeks apart. 

For more information see ATAGI recommended COVID-19 doses and vaccine.

What is a third dose?

Severely immunocompromised people aged five years and over require a third primary dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from two months (and no later than six months) after dose two to remain up to date.

  • Pfizer is available to everyone five years and older
  • Moderna is available to everyone six years and older
  • AstraZeneca and Novavax are available to everyone 18 years and older

For more information see ATAGI recommended COVID-19 doses and vaccines.

Can I mix up my vaccines?

ATAGI prefers use of the same COVID-19 vaccine for the two doses of the primary course. 

An alternative vaccine brand for dose two should be used if there are specific medical contraindications or precautions, or if the same vaccine brand is not available in Australia.  

What are the benefits of a booster dose?

The primary course of COVID-19 vaccines is two doses for most people. Two doses provide very good protection, especially against severe disease. A booster dose will make sure the protection from your first doses is even stronger and longer lasting.  Initial protection is reduced, and increased waning is evident following primary COVID-19 vaccines (usually two doses) against the Omicron variant. 

Everyone aged 16 years and older is recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to maintain an ‘up-to-date’ status. This booster dose is recommended from three months after the last primary dose. Children and adolescents aged five to15 years are up-to-date after completion of a primary course of the vaccine A booster dose is not currently recommended for this age group.

An additional booster dose, or ‘winter booster dose’, is recommended for people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who have already had their initial booster dose.

Pfizer and Moderna are approved by the TGA and recommended by ATAGI as a COVID-19 booster dose. If you are 16 or 17 (or have turned 16 since you had your primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine) you can have the Pfizer vaccine as a booster dose. If you are 18 years or older, you can have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a booster dose regardless of which vaccine you had for your first two doses.

You can also receive the Astra Zeneca or Novovax if you can’t have a mRNA vaccine for medical reasons. Novavax can only be used as a booster if no other COVID-19 vaccine is suitable.

Use the Vaccine Clinic Finder to find a clinic and book. The date of the second dose of vaccine is on the COVID-19 digital certificate.

Easy read documents about booster doses, the winter dose, the third dose, and the difference between the third dose and a booster dose are available. 

Am I eligible for a winter (fourth) dose?

Accumulating evidence suggests that the greatest benefit from a second booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is in people at highest risk of severe disease outcomes. 

People are eligible for a winter dose, at least four months after their initial booster dose if they are:

  • Adults aged 65 years and older
  • People aged 16 years and older with severe immunocompromise as defined in the ATAGI statement on use of a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged 50 years and older
  • People aged 16 to 64 years who have a complex, chronic or severe conditions that are considered to increase their risk of severe illness from COVID-19 
  • Residents 16 years and older of aged care or disability care facilities

Easy Read resource - the COVID-19 vaccine winter dose.

Should I get a flu vaccine?

This year it’s even more important to get the flu vaccine. The flu vaccines protect you from getting infected and prevent serious disease. The flu strains constantly change so you need a new vaccine every year to make sure you stay protected.

People eligible for free influenza vaccines through the National Immunisation Program include:

  • People aged 65 years and over
  • Pregnant women (at any stage during pregnancy)
  • All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over
  • All children aged six months to less than five years
  • People aged six months and over with certain medical conditions that increase their chance of severe infuenza and its complications

In some states and territories, influenza vaccines may also be provided for free to other people not listed above. Speak to your GP or visit your state or territory Department of Health website to find out more.

Find out more about getting vaccinated against the flu in English and 10 other languages. You can have your flu shot at the same time as your COVID-19 booster or winter dose.

Is there a winter vaccine in-reach program?

The Commonwealth will continue to actively offer in-reach vaccines to all residential disability settings for primary course and booster doses, including through GPs and pharmacies. However, people with disability and their service providers are increasingly seeking services from local primary care settings.

In-reach clinics provided by Commonwealth Vaccination Administration Provider Program (VAPP) providers continue to be available as a vaccine pathway where primary care channels, such as GPs and pharmacies, are not available.

If providers need support to organise a primary care provider, contact your local Primary Health Network to ask for help in finding local primary care options.

Where can I get a vaccine?

The Commonwealth COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder or the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080 will direct you to vaccine providers in your area and is the best way to book a vaccine for yourself, a child or someone else with their permission.

Disability vaccine clinics help people with disability, their family, carers and disability workers to access vaccines in the fastest way possible specific to their circumstances. Find a disability vaccination hub on the Department of Health website or check your state or territory website.

The Commonwealth continues to support in-reach services for NDIS participants living in disability and aged care residential accommodation settings of two or more people.

In addition, the Australian Government, GPs, Primary Health Networks, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, community pharmacies and state and territory governments are providing a wide range of options for people to access a vaccine.

Disability service providers are encouraged to work with people with disability and their existing primary care providers to start planning now for the delivery of COVID-19 winter dose vaccines.

Winter doses can be sourced through:

  • Primary care providers such as GPs and pharmacies
  • Working with Primary Health Networks to identify primary health care in-reach services for NDIS participants living in disability and aged care residential accommodation settings of two or more people

Disability service providers may submit an expression of interest (EOI) form for Commonwealth in-reach support, where this is still the most appropriate vaccine service.

Enquiries can be sent to:

Accessible state and territory clinics

Some states and territories are offering services that make getting a vaccine easier for people with disability:

How can people book a COVID-19 vaccine? 

The COVID-19 vaccine clinic finder provides information about eligibility and how to book, either online or by phone, or refer to your state and territory government websites.

Are COVID-19 vaccines free?

The COVID-19 vaccination is free to everyone living in Australia.

This includes:

  • Australian citizens, permanent residents, holders of temporary visas and those not eligible for Medicare
  • Refugees, asylum seekers, temporary protection visa holders and those on bridging visas
  • People currently in detention facilities including those whose visas have been cancelled
Healthcare providers won’t charge fees to administer the vaccine. People are encouraged to ensure their Medicare card details are up to date before getting a vaccine. People who are not eligible for Medicare can get a free vaccine at state or territory vaccine clinics and Commonwealth vaccine clinic. If a vaccine provider charges for any costs associated with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccination (including booking fees),email your complaintto,or call the Provider Benefits Integrity Hotline on 1800 314 808 (9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday AEDT).

Is there financial support to help disability workers get a vaccine?

Temporary payments are available to eligible providers for each participant they support to get any COVID-19 vaccine (including primary doses as well as any booster shots).

From 1 April 2022, NDIS has combined the COVID-19 vaccine and booster arrangements into a single participant vaccination support measure. Eligible providers can claim $75 per participant per COVID-19 dosage when they support a participant to receive any COVID-19 vaccine.

For more information and to check eligibility see For providers - coronavirus (COVID-19).

Do people get proof they have received a vaccine?

People can download or print their immunisation history statement or COVID-19digital certificate through their online Medicare account or via the Express Plus Medicare mobile app. You can also see your digital certificate in your My Health Record.

The immunisation history statement will identify each of the two COVID-19 vaccine doses. The vaccine provider or another health professional can also be asked to print a statement of the vaccination. The Services Australia website steps  through how to:

If you’re not eligible for Medicare, you can still get your immunisation history statement online through myGov.

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What if I can’t have a COVID-19 vaccination for medical reasons?

If you can’t get any of the approved COVID-19 vaccines for medical reasons, known as a medical contraindication, this will be recorded on your immunisation history statement and COVID-19 digital certificate. You can learn more about getting proof of your medical contraindication at myGov.

To learn more about what counts as a medical exemption and the reasons for an exemption and what does not count as a medical exemption on the Services Australia website.

Check your state or territory COVID-19 vaccine home website for additional requirements of proof from jurisdictions.

Vaccines and their effectiveness

What are the benefits of the vaccine?

COVID-19 will be with us for many years into the future.

Getting vaccinated now has many benefits, including:

  • Protecting yourself against severe illness and death from COVID-19
  • Preventing complications such as ‘long COVID
  • Protecting people who can’t be vaccinated due to medical conditions
  • Slowing the spread of the virus
  • Keeping hospitalisation rates at a level our health system can cope with
  • Reducing the need for lockdowns and school closures in the future (when enough Australians are vaccinated)
  • Being able to attend events and travel in the future

Is the COVID-19 vaccine compulsory?

The decision to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia is voluntary - as are all vaccinations in Australia.  

Check your state or territory COVID-19 vaccine home website or Fair Work Australia to see if health orders requiring a vaccine of certain groups, or workplaces has been mandated.

People with a disability who are vaccinated can ask their disability support provider to encourage their support worker to be vaccinated if they are living in location where this has not been made mandatory. Where COVID-19 vaccines are mandated for disability workers and the worker chooses not to be vaccinated, the service provider will need to comply with state or territory requirements regarding unvaccinated workers and make alternative arrangements for the person with a disability.

Disability service providers or support workers who refuse to continue providing supports to a person with a disability because of their decision to receive or not receive the vaccine, may be breaching the NDIS Code of Conduct. 

Is one vaccine more effective than the others?

Both the Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax and AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective at stopping people from becoming very sick if they catch COVID-19.

The vaccines have been thoroughly assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and found to be effective. See approval of the vaccines.

The vaccines train your immune system to recognise and clear out the virus, before it makes you seriously ill. Your body's immune system builds this protection over time. You are fully protected between seven to 14 days after your second dose.

Easy read documents about AstraZeneca and Pfizer are available.

Answers to common questions on COVID-19 vaccines are available in 74 languages.

Additional Easy Read resources are listed in this FAQ in the Vaccine resources section.

Can people have the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time?

All COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered (given on the same day) with an influenza vaccine. It is recommended that each vaccine be given in different arms, to enable identification of vaccine reaction if there are any side effects.

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Vaccine hesitancy

Where can I find credible information about the vaccines?

The Department of Health medical advisors provide answers to questions from the public, to assist people make informed choices.

The “Is it True” webpage provides answers to many questions people have including:

What information is available for people who are unsure about having a COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccine hesitancy is not uncommon as many people are nervous about having an injection of any kind. 

Disability providers can encourage staff or people with disabilities who have any concerns about receiving the vaccine to discuss these with their GP or health practitioner.  

Providers can also make use of resources developed by DoH to answer concerns about COVID-19 vaccines, including:

NDS resources to encourage vaccine uptake and reduce hesitancy include:

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has a vaccine approval process that thoroughly assesses a vaccine's safety. 

The TGA monitors COVID-19 vaccine safety by:

Are there side effects from the vaccines? 

The TGA report that most side effects are mild and go away within a couple of days.

AusVaxSafety is tracking whether people experience side effects after COVID-19 vaccines.

Their data shows that in Australia:

  • Over half the participants report no side effects (around 55 per cent)
  • Just under half report any side effect (around 44 per cent)
  • Less than 1 per cent report visiting a doctor or emergency department after being vaccinated
  • Reports are consistent with side effects seen in clinical trials and surveillance in other countries

You do not need to prepare for side effects by taking anything before getting your vaccine. 

For details on possible side effects for each vaccine, see:

If you are concerned about side effects, check your symptoms with the COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effect Checker. A COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effect Checker will assist anyone with concerns after their vaccination, or contact the National Coronavirus Helpline, 1800 020 080, 24 hours a day.

Anyone with concerns about post-vaccine symptoms can also contact the NPS MedicineWise adverse medicine events line, or TGA Home - Adverse event reporting

Other resources:

Does AstraZeneca cause blood clots?

Millions of doses have been administered around the world to adults of all ages with very few serious side effects. However, there has been a link established between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a very rare but serious side effect called thrombosis in combination with thrombocytopenia.

There is an extremely low chance of this side effect, which may occur in around four to six people in every million after being vaccinated.

ATAGI recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine for people:

  • Aged 60 and over
  • Aged 18 to 59 in outbreak areas, if they do not have immediate access to Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna)

If you are aged 18 to 59, you can choose to get protected with the AstraZeneca vaccine if you:

  • Are following an assessment by a qualified health professional
  • Provide verbal or written consent

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Employer and workplace information

How should providers have conversations with staff about getting vaccinated?

Disability service providers should facilitate open conversations with empathy and take the time to listen to any questions or concerns from their employees. Service providers should be prepared to provide advice and data, and to encourage employees to discuss any concerns with their GP.

Public health orders differ between State and Territory governments regarding the mandates for COVID-19 vaccines and the disability workforce. It is critical that service providers facilitate conversations and provide information to their employees about the benefits and effectiveness of getting vaccinated.

For more information on COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace, and training on how to have these conversations visit Fair Work

How should disability services prepare for the onsite COVID-19 booster vaccination?

The Department of Health has a COVID-19 vaccine booster program for people with disability and support workers in residential accommodation settings. Providers do not need to wait for an in-reach service if other vaccination services are available.

If you are a provider that received an in-reach visit for the COVID-19 vaccine:

Enquiries can be sent to

Providers that did not originally receive an in-reach visit, but want one for the COVID-19 vaccine booster can:

Should residential staff be paid to attend an onsite vaccination clinic if they are not rostered for work?

The COVID-19 vaccine is free for everyone. Anyone who receives this from a GP will be asked for their Medicare card as GPs can bulk bill for their time.  

Individuals who do not have a Medicare card will still be able to access a free vaccine, e.g. asylum seekers.

Get ready for your COVID-19 vaccinations - Services Australia

If staff experience side effects or symptoms after their vaccination, what should they do? 

Onsite Vaccine Providers will monitor all individuals for 15 minutes after their vaccination. Disability providers will need to report any adverse reactions by staff or clients that occur following a COVID-19 vaccination provided by the in-reach vaccination team.

Service providers must ensure that staff or people living with disabilities know who to contact for assistance if any changes or concerns in their health occur in the first 24 hours and how to report an adverse event. State and Territory Government reporting contact details for any adverse reactions are listed on the SAFEVAC website.

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Do people with symptoms after their vaccination need to have a COVID test?  

The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the COVID-19 virus. It is impossible to get COVID-19 from these vaccines. However, the vaccine does not provide immediate protection from COVID-19. Anyone who reports COVID-19 symptoms in the first 48 hours after their vaccine, such as respiratory symptoms or loss of smell and not identified as typical side effects, is advised to seek a COVID-19 test.

Further information on symptoms is available on the DoH website.

If a disability worker shows COVID-19 symptoms after a vaccination, do we apply suspected COVID protocols?  

In this situation, you would apply relevant suspected COVID-19 case protocols and contact your State or Territory government health department for further advice.

You can also read this AHPPC statement recommending mandatory vaccines for disability support workers who provide supports to people with disability.

Are COVID-19 vaccines mandated for disability workers?  

NDS has adopted a policy decision in favour of Federal, State or Territory governments mandating that disability direct care workers, regardless of the setting and circumstances of this work, be required to have the COVID-19 vaccine. Employers considering mandating the vaccine would need to consider their own legal and workplace industrial agreement perspectives.  

Refer to the Fair Work Commission for updates regarding mandating COVID-19 vaccinations.

Can a service provider require an employee to provide evidence of receiving vaccinations?

Can a service provider specify a COVID-19 vaccine is mandatory for a new employee?

Provider obligations will differ throughout jurisdictions. Follow the links below for details:

Can a service provider specify a COVID-19 vaccine is mandatory for a new employee?

Employers and employees are encouraged to continue working together to find solutions that suit their individual needs and workplaces. An important part of Australia’s vaccine rollout continues to be a collaborative approach in the workplace that includes discussing, planning and facilitating COVID-19 vaccines.

Fair Work Commission states employers may be able to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, including where a specific law (such as a public health order) requires it.

Employers should get legal advice if they’re considering requiring COVID-19 vaccines in their workplace. More information on discrimination protections under the Fair Work Act and guidance about COVID-19 vaccines and the workplace for employers and employees looking for clarity on their workplace rights and obligations is available on Fair Work Commissions' website

NDS advises IR and legal advice should always be sought regarding any decisions to include evidence of vaccination status as a prerequisite for specific positions.

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Preparing clients for vaccinations

There are many resources currently available to assist preparing clients for vaccinations, from both governments and the disability sector.

The toolkits include a range of fact sheets, checklists, information for providers, how to organise consent in advance, what to expect before, during and 
after the in-reach vaccination team has been on site.

Other resources to support staff and people with disabilities to prepare for their vaccinations, including consent related documents, are included in these FAQs.

NDS Resources to support vaccinations

How to use and not use face masks videos:

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Consent for people requiring decision making support

How do we organise informed consent for people living with a disability who require support with decision-making? 

To the extent that they are able, a person with disability should always be included in any decision that involves them, especially regarding their own health.

The NDIS Commission has released resources to assist with the process of gaining consent. Service providers are asked to give participants appropriate time to digest information and for participants to involve others in the decision-making process, if they wish.

Refer to the NDIS COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet: Informed consent, preparing for the vaccine, restrictive practices.

DoH has produced resources to assist disability providers, carers and people with disabilities understand the process for giving informed consent to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination:

The legislation on consent and who can be a substitute decision-maker varies in states and territories, with each being bound by their own legislation.

Organisations that will assist in each state and territory are listed below:

Australian Captial Territory: Support for People with Disability, ACT Community Services
New South Wales: NSW Trustee and Guardian 
Northern Territory: NT COVID-19 Vaccine roll-out
Queensland: Office of the Public Guardian: Consent process for COVID-19 vaccination 
South Australia: Australian Government Information for people with disability about COVID-19 vaccines
Tasmania: Australian Government Information for people with disability about COVID-19 vaccines
Victoria: Guideline on the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine - Office of the Public Advocate
Western Australia: Making Treatment Decisions information from the Public Advocate

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Useful resources

Where can we locate vaccine information in other languages or in formats that are easier to understand? 

A range of resources and information have been developed to meet a variety of accessible needs. 

Disability providers can access useful resources they can use to inform and support their clients, staff, families, carers and volunteers to make a decision regarding the COVID-19 vaccination program. Feeling well-informed and safe will assist in reducing the level of vaccine hesitancy in the disability sector.

General resources

Disability providers can access useful resources they can use to inform and support their clients, staff, families, carers and volunteers to make a decision regarding the COVID-19 vaccination program. Feeling well-informed and safe will assist in reducing the level of vaccine hesitancy in the disability sector.

Decision making guides and consent  

Consent – Information for providers from ATAGI is a 12-page guidance for immunisation providers for gaining informed consent to the COVID-19 vaccine, and answers to some frequently asked clinical questions.

Other guidance materials from ATAGI include:

Quick Links – vaccines

As a result of the continual updating of state and territory vaccine rollout operations, the links to their separate websites are provided for access to current information.

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